the hunt is on
a review by the Crow.
When it comes to horror, something I always say is: “horror is hard“.
Hush is parts thriller, parts slasher. Generally, slashers disappoint. I can’t honestly name any good slasher movies, now that I think about it. For the most part, they’re not even meant to be critically successful.
So, disappointment somewhat expected, what did I think of this movie?
WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS SOME [MINOR] SPOILERS
Hush hits all the right spots almost immediately. Our protagonist is a deaf-mute. She is alone in the woods working away on her next novel, and is occasionally visited by her neighbours (who are within walking distance, but nowhere really close).
In other words: she is almost gift-wrapped for any psychotic killers out there.
The movie begins with something innocent enough: with our protagonist Maddie working away on a rack of lamb.
Now, who doesn’t enjoy watching people cook? She chops up onions, crushes garlic, trims asparagus… all the good stuff, reading instructions off the back of the box the lamb came in while the lamb works in the oven.
The sharp sounds of the knife, the crackle of the asparagus on the pan, all the sounds of cooking lead into the reveal of Maddie’s condition (brought on by meningitis when she was thirteen years old). One of her neighbours: Sarah, walks over, and the pair strike up a conversation. Maddie is revealed to have almost (to me, at least) superhuman levels of lip-reading skills.
The conversation is broken up by the fire alarm, which Sarah points out to Maddie. I don’t know how long the lamb was in the oven or if she left the pans on the hob, but this thing went charcoal pretty quick from when I last saw it.
Here’s where the movie starts dropping its Chekov’s guns. A thing I’m quite proud of is that I picked up on all the right ones. I can only put that down to good writing.
The pair converse a little more, and Sarah leaves after asking Maddie over that they can order in when her boyfriend comes over.
Some time after she’s left, Maddie starts cleaning up. As she’s at it, Sarah reappears on the other side of the door, swiftly followed by a masked man armed with a crossbow and a knife. Maddie continues the arduous task ahead of her in blissful ignorance while Sarah is shot, and eventually stabbed, to death, while the man watches Maddie and comes to realise her disability.
Maddie then proceeds to Facetime a close friend as the man watches her. He nicks her phone, and after some time, sends Maddie pictures of herself.
Maddie comes to the horrific conclusion and rushes to close the door he’s entered and left by – a move that gives us the first face off of the movie. After a series of door checks and no window smashes, Maddie goes to her laptop, only for the masked man to switch off the main line to the house. After a slight staredown, Maddie scrawls:
Didnt see face
Boyfriend coming home soon
on the glass door.
The killer sees this. He walks right up to the door, takes his mask off, and mouths to her – once he’s got her attention and knows she can read his lips – that he won’t come in. He’ll come in when she wishes she were dead.
And from this point on: the hunt begins.
The movie describes its characters excellently. The killer is a smart, calculating hunter. He has Maddie cornered, and everything he does (except out of desperation) is thought out and considered. Maddie is desperate, but never does anything incredibly stupid – as characters in these movies so often do. There’s none of the absent-mindedness which one would assume from the burnt lamb, which was something I thought would become part of the story. Even the boyfriend who shows up looking for Sarah acts rationally, and clearly thinks out what’s going on while he’s on screen.
There are small opportunities which seem missed (for example: Craig), but which actually work really well to misdirect the viewer’s expectations. As scant as the elements of the movie are, they all come together well. Anything which isn’t required is cast aside. All we get are the essentials. And that’s one of the marks of effective writing.
Overall, Hush is executed beautifully. There’s only one scene I have a problem with, and it has to do with a poor directorial choice. As much as it sticks out like a sore thumb, the movie more than makes up for it with scenes that are crafted excellently.
Simple as the scene mentioned above which first describes Maddie’s disability is, it works. Equally simple (if not more) and effective is the cuts to Maddie’s life flashing before her eyes. It’s hard to not speak about the scenes I thought were excellent without ruining the movie, but the movie is chock-full of great moments.
The movie also never relies on jump scares. Jump scares are – quite frankly – lazy and pathetic. What they inspire isn’t fear, but surprise. It’s always lovely to watch a movie which throws them away for the good stuff.
As expected of a movie starring a deaf-mute main character, the use of sound here is also great. The performances match the praise as well.
On the whole, Hush is an excellently made film. Multiple thumbs up to the team at work behind the scenes. I just wish that one scene were a little better done.
Also; just because this post has no “characters” category, I decided to add the following here: I just happened to be talking about Battlestar Galactica earlier on the day I watched this movie. And guess who shows up?! Anders!
I cannot recommend this movie enough. Take it from me: and watch it. Preferably alone or with a very, very close friend, in the dark (the movie’s quite dark itself, so watching it in a lit room is certainly not recommended), and with a refreshing beverage at hand.
Hush is perhaps my favourite new slasher film. And yes: I’m going to call it that, because the genre sorely needs a crown jewel. Over the course of the year, I’ve been whinging and moaning about how poor 2016’s been for movies.
Now, with The Neon Demon and Hush, 2016’s got two amazing movies so far (among others due to appear on The Corvid Review).
This year’s not a total loss.
Good job, Hush. You’ve restored my faith in this year’s movies.